Any play can turn into a problem if you don’t think through the rules and regular routine of the game beforehand. It’s a good idea to think about what the game is actually ‘for’!
Let’s think of a basic ‘fetch’ game. Simply tossing a ball over and over until your dog falls down, exhausted, might sound like the best idea for a quiet life but can create a serious obsession for your dog. It can also create injury issues as the dog repeatedly lands on the same joints over and over in a frenzied attempt to catch. As we know, nothing is good when it’s excessively repetitive. This can be particularly problematic with some working breeds such as Border Collies, who then constantly obsess about the game and cannot break off from it.
Now let’s look at chasing your dog. I have heard several owners say they love running after their pooch while it gambols about the lawn. This might be hilarious as a mock ‘I am gonna getcha!’ game but it actually teaches the dog to run away from you. This has to be the very last thing you want your dog to learn. It is even worse when the dog also has a toy and learns to ‘keep away’. Before too long you have taught your dog never to return to you and also, that they can hold onto things without giving them back.
How about play fighting, where you encourage your dog to mouth on your hands or clothes. Even if they are gentle, you are teaching your dog that mouthing people is a great game. You might be fine with it, but it may not be the same for anyone else, especially anyone frail or small. It’s not a thing to boast about, ‘He doesn’t hurt me!’. You have taught a dog to play with people using their grabbing and mouthing behaviours, which could be easily misinterpreted as biting. Easily done and forever a problem, so the quick answer is, don’t teach it. Using their mouth on people is a habit we do not want any dog to learn.
This doesn’t mean you can’t play with your dog – far from it! Reverse the above. Ask your dog to bring things back to you, little and often. Vary the game by hiding things for them to fetch rather than asking them to run back and forth. If they need that much running exercise, teach them a send away.
Instead of chasing your dog, invite them to chase you! Easy!
And finally, play with a toy rather than your body. There are millions of dog toys out there, and you only really need to pick one. It’s not hard, and it’s a lot of fun. Enjoy!
Here’s just an example of a few to try! Click the image for more info.
I am asked this nearly every day at the moment. Everything is still changing day by day, so I am not going to give you the exact details of what is ‘allowed’ as I write this column, because it will be out of date probably even by tomorrow! We do know that touch can transfer infection and the advice currently is to always wash your hands before and after touching your pets. I am not sure if you are doing this, but that’s sensible hygiene in any case, so we all should.
Moreso right now, we are all wondering if our dogs are allowed to meet other dogs, and how will it affect them if they can’t? The quick answer is, 2 metres apart is 2 metres apart, but don’t be upset because this means your dog can’t mix.
The idea of social distancing has become more normalised, and I am glad it has. Whether or not we follow it (and we definitely should!) is something that many dogs have already been doing for years. Dogs aren’t all the big, huggy and over the top creatures we may think. It’s probable that your dog likes you and wants to do this for you, but often, they won’t share that same affection with everyone.
I have to explain over and over to clients that many, many dogs do not automatically love everyone. They don’t want to meet every person and every dog on their walks or in their home. They are allowed to have those misgivings. It’s normal.
You may have the dog that does love everyone, but in return, does that mean that your dog is entitled to leap all over every person and dog they encounter? No, it doesn’t. It often causes fear, anxiety and lots of fights too.
My goal here is for you to recognise that for a lot of dogs, social distancing and lockdown have been a good thing. They don’t want to meet and greet. They perhaps want to look from a distance, or only play with people and other dogs that they actually know well. They don’t necessarily need to be life and soul of the party, and most dogs I work with are very happy to stay at least 2 metres away (and probably more). In short, they are allowed to have preferences. It is us that can overwhelm and upset them (or other dogs, or other people) by allowing and encouraging them to get far too close.
Next time you are on your walk, don’t be sorry that your dog can’t go right up to other dogs. A lot of them probably prefer it.
To keep this distance, using a lead such as the one below will help in keeping the dog close by when necessary whilst on walks. Click the image for more info.
We’ve all had time to reconsider our daily lives and routines, our safety and all the other things we probably took for granted, until quite recently. Now we have settled into the new situation, it has changed yet again. Some of us are getting stressed and anxious again since our lives have become unpredictable, over and over.
What does this have to do with cats?
Cats, as do all animals, like to know what is safe, where their next meal is coming from (sometimes twenty times a day), who they can trust and who to stay away from. They want to know where it’s warm and cosy and where they won’t feel like something is going to be risky.
Your cat is probably far better than you at observing all of the routine changes, no matter how minute they are. Cats are very good at this, highly sensitive to it in fact. It isn’t a surprise, since they can be so skittish one moment and completely unbothered, the next. If you’ve ever owned a cat that is hugely confident with absolutely everything and everyone, that is a rarity. Most cats take offence rapidly and won’t hold back from scratching, even if you are trying to pet them for a moment longer than the 1.25 seconds they decided was going to be acceptable.
My point is that your cat wants you to understand that for them, changes can be stressful too. They don’t make a big fuss about things, because that’s not a good survival tactic, but they will show you in plenty of more subtle ways that they aren’t happy. Keeping away from certain people, leaving the room when things happen, grooming themselves frantically, even sleeping ‘propped up’ rather than splayed out. Things can change from moment to moment, so that cat that displayed his fluffy belly to you in the sunshine will suddenly grab your arm and scrabble his back feet in. Us humans have to learn our lessons, don’t we?
Cats can be demonstrative and cuddly sometimes, but not all cats are. Forcing them is not a good idea, since you can be really hurt. Cats do not live under the ‘dominance’ myth, any more than dogs do, and to anyone suggesting this – stop it, it’s harmful and untrue. So, what’s new with your cat? Well, nothing really, but your thoughts about cats could reflect what we know now. Cats are sensitive and intelligent, care about territory and resources and will battle for these. It’s a safety game. Just as our lives are currently.
To keep your cat and yourself occupied during times like these, fun toys such as these will help in keeping them occupied and energetic. Click the image for more info.
What’s happening for our pets during lockdown? How are they coping?
In my book ‘Being a Dog’, I tried to help us all learn how the world appears from the dog’s point of view. It was the same in my book ‘Purrfect Guide to thinking like a Cat’, but of course, for our cat friends instead. Why is it important to get inside their thought processes?
Try saying ‘It’s just a dog’ to anyone who has one in their home these days? Not everyone is lucky enough to own a pet, but dog or cat, they are one of the family. As we know, families are very different in the way that they do things day to day. This means that our pets learn all of our little ways, without even trying hard.
What happens then, when there is a lockdown and things seem to be turned on their heads for most of us? Is it silly to think that the pets might care too?
Of course, they aren’t reading the news or looking at the government statistics, depressing though they are. However, we are affected by all these things. Staying at home, feeling worried, missing our normal routines and being put under huge pressure too. It’s all incredibly different, so it would be naive to imagine that our dogs and cats haven’t noticed.
Does it matter? Well, possibly not. Dogs and cats are hugely adaptable. They cope with all kinds of comings and goings in human life, so why not this? I do think that now we have mostly been forced to slow down our pace, they probably quite like the continuity. Those that are left alone most of the day are probably loving having us around.
If you are feeling bored, imagine what your dog goes through for the hours and hours you’re at work?
If you are feeling a bit ‘hemmed in’, perhaps your cat could be considered a little more? Let them have their own space. They need it.
Of course, it isn’t all rainbows. It might be that you are experiencing more problems with your pet because you aren’t leaving them alone as much, especially if you’re seeking extra cuddles or the kids are letting off steam. The good news is that there is still help available if you need it, so feel free to contact me or any properly qualified (ABTC-registered, Clinical Animal Behaviourist) colleagues. We are still running online puppy classes, and they are still filled with well-behaved dogs and puppies wanting to learn. It isn’t a poorer or lesser method, no matter what you hear. Our online class clients are doing exceptionally well, and I think they deserve congratulations because their ‘lockdown pups’ are going to cope with all the changes that will come with our future new normal.
Here are the two of my books I mentioned, click the images for more info.
We are running all classes, one to one and behaviour consultations online! Sessions are all held with Karen Wild, CCAB, Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist and Animal Behaviour and Training Council registered Animal Training Instructor.
We can take puppies from all over the UK so don’t hesitate to get in touch and give your lockdown puppy the best chance at quality puppy training!
Karen has over 20 years experience and is able to help you through the early weeks and months of puppy training and puppy behaviour.
Don’t delay! Class space is limited and we are taking bookings now.
Music by Louis Wild ©Copyright WildMusicStudio 2020
Emma Milne is a Vet, author and animal welfare enthusiast.
Emma qualified from Bristol in 1996 and was featured in BBC’s hugely popular Vets In Practice series for 7 years. Emma is frequently on TV and radio and writes for many magazines as well as her own books. Emma is passionate about animal welfare and has campaigned for many things. Her main areas of interest are pedigree health issues, captive wild animals and promoting responsible pet ownership.
I am very pleased and proud to announce that I am now a Certificated Member of the Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians (FABC).
Standards in animal welfare, pet behaviour and training are extremely important where we are close to the hearts and lives of so many. One goal is to make sure we provide everyone with access to properly assessed and qualified practitioners.
If you are a pet owner, we know that we only want the best for them. The FABC clearly state “Sharing our lives with an animal can be a wonderful experience but when their behaviour causes concerns this can be very worrying. By choosing one of our certificated members you can be assured that your behaviourist has met the very highest industry standards both academically and practically.”.
“The Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians is a professional body to forward the interests of Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCABs) and those training to become Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourists.”.
Along with ensuring you know where to come with your pet problems, Veterinarians and Vet Nurses are also able to feel certain that their clients are being referred to professionals who have been independently assessed.
If you’d like to know more or access the list of FABC members near you, as well as accessing helpful articles and webinars, please visit https://fabclinicians.org/
We all love dogs, and only a proud dog owner understands how it feels to live with a dog. They not only make our lives better but also become the center of our world.
Dogs have been human companions for a very long time, and they love their human friends more than their life. Their wagging tail and bright shiny eyes never fail to tell how much they adore their human boo.
Well, you can always feel the love your pooch has for you through his playful jumps and never-ending excitement when he sees you enter the house. And, this happens every time you come back home. He follows you everywhere and always craves to spend time with you. And no dog parent can deny the fact that they love to see their dog excited every time they come back home, and his gesture of following them everywhere makes them love him even more.
But, there are times when a dog parent comes back home and hear the neighbor complaining about how their dog was disturbing the entire neighborhood by barking or howling persistently. Did it ever happen to you?
If yes, then there are chances that your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety, and you need to take it seriously.
Well, if you are pondering over the weird behavior your dog is showing off these days, then do not worry!! Through this article, you will get an insight into what separation anxiety is, along with the symptoms that will help you realize if he is suffering from the problem or not.
So, without wasting any more time, let’s move onto the problem and its symptoms.
Separation anxiety is a serious concern among dogs and needs to be dealt with carefully. It is a situation that dogs face when they do not find their human friend/owner around. The main reason behind dogs developing separation anxiety is that they are social animals and prefer to live in packs.
For a domestic dog, the pack is their owner or the person they are attached to. So, when they do not find their owner around, they start feeling anxious or gets distressed. Due to the feeling of anxiety or distress, they exhibit destructive behavior.
When it comes to dogs exhibiting disturbing/destructive behavior, their owner starts feeling frustrated and many times punishes them for the same. Well, it should not be this way since punishing dogs suffering from separation anxiety may worsen the situation.
Thus, one needs to understand that their dog is already suffering, and he needs to be dealt with care and support to recover from the situation. After all, they develop separation anxiety because they do not find you around and all they crave is you, your time, love, and support.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety
Now that you are aware of what separation anxiety is, let us talk about signs that will help you understand if your dog is suffering from the same or not.
Before you take a look at the symptoms, understand that if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, he will exhibit these symptoms only in your absence, not while you are present.
Find out more on dogs by clicking on the following link: www.mypetchild.com
Constant Barking or Howling
If you often hear your neighbor telling you how your dog keeps on howling or barking while you were not home, take it as a sign that your dog might be suffering from separation anxiety.
Dogs tend to get distressed when they do not see their human boo around and end up barking or howling persistently due to the stress they develop when left alone.
Prefer reading: Simple tips to get your dog to stop barking.
Chewing or Destroying the Furniture
Nobody likes to enter their home after a tough day at work only to see destroyed furniture or their favorite pair of slippers. People usually frown upon their dog after seeing the destruction he had caused in their absence.
If you, too, have ever faced such a situation, then instead of getting angry, try and understand that it is not in his control, and he might be prone to separation anxiety.
You might have seen your dog moving in the same direction, usually in a circular motion or back and forth along a straight line. Well, this too might be a sign that your dog is suffering from the problem of separation anxiety.
Digging or Attempting to Escape
There are chances that if your dog does not find you around, he might try to dig through the doorways or try to escape from the window. Well, during this attempt, he might cause self-harm, including broken teeth or nails, scraped paws, etc.
Acting Up While He Sees You Leaving
Have you ever noticed your dog acting up just when he realizes that you are about to leave for work or anywhere else?
Well, it might be an indication that he is suffering from the problem of separation anxiety and cannot stay at home alone without you.
Always remember that if your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, then he will only show these symptoms when he does not find you around. And if he behaves the same way even in your presence, then he might need to be taught a few polite manners.
If your dog is well-trained to do his business outside the house and he starts urinating or defecating inside while you are not around, it might be because he cannot stand to stay alone at home without you.
Wrapping it Up
Now that you know about separation anxiety and its problems, make sure you do not get your dog wrong if he is acting up. So, if you see your dog acting differently than how he used to, consider how he behaves and try to understand if he is suffering from the problem of separation anxiety.
If it turns out to be a yes, then take the necessary measures to help him get out of the situation.
Dogs are not born with self control when it comes to food. They see something tasty in front of them, and take it! Here are ways to teach them the essential politeness rules when food is available.
It may be that your dog is very keen to get his dinner, but if you start by teaching him to sit beforehand, you can use this as a way of keeping him anchored to the floor instead.
Never follow the ancient and dangerous advice to take the food away while your dog is eating. Stop doing that! I see a lot of aggressive dogs where the owner managed to teach them to food guard using such a silly method. Instead, be sensible and teach this food bowl exercise:
1. As you prepare your dog’s food, ask him to sit calmly. Once he does so, offer him a piece of food from the bowl.
2. Whilst he remains sitting, start to lower the food bowl to the floor.
3. If he remains sitting, praise him and offer him a piece of food from the bowl.
4. Remind him to sit and continue lowering the food bowl to the floor.
5. If he moves out of the sit, simply stop lowering the bowl, and stand back up again.
6. Continue repeating from stage 3 above until he sits calmly whilst the food bowl is lowered all the way to the floor. Be patient and remember to reward him during this process for sitting so that your dog understands what will earn him the food.
7. Once the bowl is on the floor, give your dog permission to eat his dinner. Success!
Next, teach your dog some patience:
1. Hold the food in your hand as with the previous exercise.
2. As your dog backs away from the food, say ‘Leave’, praise (or click) and give him some food, saying ‘Take it’.
3. Progress to holding some of the food in your fingertips or open hand, and each time, ask him to ‘Leave’, praise/click and give him the food ‘Take it’.
4. Progress further to placing the food onto the floor, repeating as above. Do not rush this stage! The goal is to teach the dog that the food will always be given to him when he hears ‘take it’, never that he snatch it himself.
5. Build up to dropping the food, or more delicious food, until your dog really understands that hearing ‘Leave’ is always something that will gain him a tasty result.
Take your time, and teach what you’d like. If your dog guards food, growls, or otherwise becomes defensive, why not give me a call? I can help.
If your dog tends to scoff his food, a bowl like this will help in slowing him down. Click the image for more info.